COMMUNITY: Up Close
Seriously PracticalBy Jeff Erickson
User group leader wants developers to connect, teach, and learn.
Mike Riley, president of the Oracle Development Tools User Group (ODTUG), tells the story of his first brush with a member of the organization and how it changed the way he thought about his career. As a project manager and DBA at Hortica Insurance and Employee Benefits, Riley was embarking on his company’s first Oracle Designer project in 2000, and he brought in one of the world’s foremost Oracle Designer experts to mentor his team. That expert was Kent Graziano, then president of ODTUGa group, as Graziano told Riley, of Oracle development tools users and experts who help each other grow professionally. “He showed a willingness to share and teach that I admired,” says Riley. By the end of the project, Riley was also a member of ODTUG. “I’ve been hooked ever since.”
I met Riley in San Francisco, when he flew to Oracle headquarters from his home just outside of St. Louis, Missouri, to represent ODTUG at a broader user community meeting. I picked him up at his hotel on what he told me was his daughter Morgan’s seventh birthday. He was missing her, and I felt like a slim substitute, but Riley answered my questions with good cheer. He was, he said, happy to tell me about the user group that means so much to him.
ODTUG members exchange expertise on tools for developing applications against Oracle Database, and members embrace widely different toolsets. “I’m an Oracle Forms guy, but we’ve got Groovy and Grails experts, and Java is front and center for many people with [Oracle] JDeveloper and Eclipse,” says Riley.
ODTUG holds two or three conferences a year, and for users’ day-to-day needs, the group provides forums linked to an e-mail list of experts. “I saw where someone was trying to connect Oracle Reports 6i to Oracle Database 11g, and the community was helping with that,” says Riley. “Our expert members answer questions quickly. I’ve received heartfelt thank-you notes for answers I’ve posted.”
To facilitate face time between members, ODTUG holds “Seriously Practical” two-day conferences one or two times a year. The events provide detailed presentations and discussions on topics such as PL/SQL and Oracle Application Express. Riley tells of a 2007 conference that culminated with food, beer, and a PL/SQL contest. “Nobody cared about the beer,” he says. “They wanted to win the contest.”
The granddaddy of ODTUG conferences is Kaleidoscope (June 21-25, 2009, in Monterey, California), where more than 800 people are expected to attend. I was glad I had my recorder running as Riley described the event.
“Sessions will cover a wide range of development areas, including Oracle Application Express; database development and tuning; architecture approaches such as service-oriented architecture and business process management; and traditional tools such as Oracle Forms, Oracle Reports, and Oracle Warehouse Builder,” says Riley. “We have a business intelligence and data warehousing track that we hope to mingle with the Oracle Hyperion and Oracle Essbase track, because we can see those two communities having a lot to offer each other. We want people to get to know their presenters and know their peers. We want them to network and find lifelong contacts.”
While members network, ODTUG also looks to include developers who are experts in other technologies. “Last year we rolled out the welcome mat for the Oracle Hyperion and Oracle Essbase people and found they were a good fit for ODTUG,” Riley says. “Now we’re looking at the BEA community.”
Joining ODTUG has led Riley to a richer professional life. “My ODTUG colleagues are my friends,” says Riley. “ODTUG membership has been about becoming a more well-rounded person. I’ve been asked to answer questions, to teach, and to become a more polished speaker because I’m presenting in front of hungry professionals and other experts. I’ve built my skills and network through ODTUG, and it helps with everything I do back at work.”
Like Riley, I’m hoping to develop my own contacts at Kaleidoscope this June. I’ve already got my Google maps dialed in to Monterey, California.
Jeff Erickson is a senior writer with Oracle Publishing.